Quarter of ten.
Did I detect something pagan about Wordsworth’s poetry which I read this afternoon? It seems to me that being “nature’s priest” is a bit different from the conventional clergyman of Christianity. And I think the “natural piety” idea is exactly what makes me feel good when I absorb his verses. There’s something akin to Goethe here, the exhortation to leave behind the books and everything flat and two dimensional and come outdoors to experience real life that breathes the free air. I believe this is the true spirit of Romantic poetry, the one that rolls through the natural scenery and meets the human eye and ear, where a person perceives and half creates reality, as in “Tintern Abbey.” I keep meaning to read his series The River Duddon, so perhaps I’ll dig it out and pore over it to observe Wordsworth’s grounded style. His writing gives a new understanding of what we call religion or piety, someplace away from the dusty study or monastery. The other book on my list to read again is The Sorrows of Young Werther…
My P Bass is now a modified monster that sounds unlike a Fender anymore. Still, I can’t wait to play it again tomorrow. Music by Chick Corea comes back to me with his first Elektric Band, but then I remember that he passed away fairly recently.
Nothing and no one lasts forever, and even eternity would be a mistake in logic, because nothing has extension and motion without spacetime: existence is impossible otherwise. Thought itself would not be possible if time didn’t exist. Everything occurs within this framework, which I’m getting from Walter Pater’s conclusion to his Renaissance studies. The experience of life is entirely sensory, a series of fleeting impressions. I don’t know how Boethius would respond to this argument. He separated human experience into transitory and permanent, saying that rational love is the latter. I think Saint Paul said that philosophy is carnal and only Christ is true and spiritual. In his view, what Pater wrote would be carnality and thus execrable.
It seems that everyone who has an idea wants to make it a dogma. But dogma itself is a fallacy because everything’s in constant motion. Nothing sits still for its portrait. There is no immobility in human life. Goethe was probably right that experience is the best teacher, so go outdoors and leave the books behind. I’m convinced.
I dreamed I was driving at night up to the Campus. But as I was crossing the Ferry Street Bridge it occurred to me that I had no coins for a parking meter, so how could I stop and get out of the car? I rounded onto Franklin Blvd and pulled into a small lot for a gas station, stopped, and got out. Then I looked in my backseat and found a few quarters at first; yet tipping the seat forward, there was a ton of silver coins: quarters and even silver dollars. I muttered to myself that I had a lot more money than I’d known. And then the dream sort of dissolved or morphed into something else. Now I can ask what the dream means, and is the money literal money or a spiritual kind of currency. Either way, it’s about the resources available to me, like an unconscious treasure, as when Hansel and Gretel find the witch’s hoard of gold and precious gems in her house in the deep dark woods. It’s also like the second part of Faust, where Mephistopheles enriches the land and people can take gold like money growing on trees. I think the silver coins in my dream are an intellectual kind of wealth because my destination was the University.
Eleven o’clock at night.
Every season, for me, has its share of memories layered in transparencies, like peering into a deep well of feelings. When I got myself a new book of King Lear, it was a commemorative impulse to mark something that happened 35 years ago. Basically, an old flame and emotional scar. The plot thickened earlier today when I felt an impression from ten years in the past, jogged by the drizzly spring weather plus the circumstance of my utility company wanting to trim my oak tree away from the power line, last done in 2012. Spring is always a romantic time of year for me, and as I get older, a time of nostalgia… Sometimes I wonder what difference it makes whether I drink or not, yet I know drunkenness is to live in a pickled dream.
A few years ago, stoicism was a fad, and everybody was jazzed about Marcus Aurelius. What is trendy today? I don’t think we’ve figured that out yet, but if someone says Jung, I’ll counter it with Freud; and if you say Alan Watts, I’ll just shake my head. A week ago I poked around my bookshelf for Andersen’s Fairy Tales and by luck I turned up the Confessions of Augustine in two little red volumes. It’s not really my cup of tea, yet I sat with one of them, scanning the contents. What interested me most was a historical figure named Faustus, versed in “natural science” of the day, probably an astrologer. It seems that the Faust legend is based on a real, historical person that Augustine actually met in the fourth or fifth century AD. Our imaginations have done the rest…
Ten o five at night.
The sun appears brighter now that I’ve separated from the church, as if no longer through a filter of piety. As long as I maintain my recovery I want to continue on this adventure, a game of seven card stud in the words of Tennessee Williams. It’ll be my last frontier, the search for a love interest in my life, because I know that love won’t come looking for me. Some people just aren’t interested in romantic love at all, maybe because it’s safer not to get involved. But to me a loveless existence is flat and two dimensional; and even a huge literary figure like Goethe bids you come away from the books in your moldy old study and go out into the world of experience to find your Gretchen and beyond to Helen of Troy. My sister will probably say I’ve lost my mind. Let her think so. A pious life of chastity is not for everyone, however self righteous you feel about it. And no one has the right to lord it over others. For me, the new Victorian Age has come to an end.
I got in touch with my sister at last. Sure enough, my fantasies had all been bogus and everything was fine. Ed has recovered from Covid and is returning to work tomorrow…
It’s a beautiful morning, actually, and the Nietzsche book sounds enticing. Earlier, when I passed the house of Kat and Corey, the for sale sign I’d seen yesterday was gone as if by magic or the action of little elves during the night. So I began to mistrust my senses: maybe the sign had never been there and I just hallucinated it? Perhaps I was deceived by a trickster or evil genius? Greater people than I have doubted their sanity when working on a discovery; Descartes and Emerson, for instance. But now I’m inclined to believe the sign was real and my senses were reliable. Reality and the doubts about it are strange things. When reality dissolves and delusions take over, the experience is just like a dream, powered by strong desires and wishes for what ought to be real. But actual existence falls short of the ideal that some people crave. It’s much like reading the second part of Faust, full of the fulfillment of wishes as money growing on trees, your heart’s desire being within your grasp. Is this feeling truly madness, especially if many people share the same ideal? It is a nowhere utopia in which everything is perfectly right and good. If we could only externalize the dream of a perfect paradise, then certainly we’d have it made; until the Jaques figure messed it up, saying, “Yeah right.”
Quarter after seven.
Today I’m supposed to see my med prescriber at the agency, so I hope the taxi comes through for me. I didn’t notice much on my trip for groceries. The dairy distributor guy bought a few items from Michelle. Part of me asks what I was doing there so early in the morning. All I could observe was how my body felt: old, tired, sore, and crippled, while my head was reeling and dodgy. “Without love, where would you be right now? / Without love…” But those old love songs don’t necessarily mean anything, do they? You can hear them in any public place, comforting you and goading you to buy more stuff. I never used to feel so cynical, yet something has gotten into me. The introduction to the Penguin edition of Faust, Part One includes this phrase: “Cynicism is the only sin.” It pertains to Mephistopheles, the devil in his intellectual role. I found this information twenty years ago and I never forgot it. If we can’t afford to be innocent, we also have to trust something beyond ourselves.
It’s another cloudy morning. I was just tracking a strange archaic beetle on the wall, when to my surprise it flew with a farting noise across the room towards the kitchen. I didn’t expect it to have wings. It only shows that I don’t know much about entomology, or maybe a lot more besides.
Five o’clock. Although it’s only Monday, I already look forward to jamming with my band mates this weekend. I feel that I’ve fenced myself in with the circumstances I’ve got today, or sort of painted myself into a corner and now I have to jump out of the room. But I feel very fortunate to have a house my parents left me which is entirely paid for, my little fort of freedom. Part of me craves oblivion again, the forgetfulness of being drunk, and I wish I were as carefree as a child with no responsibilities at all… I really miss my mother and my brother for their great intelligence and big hearts. I always got from them the sense that they were passionate, like heroes from a story by Joyce or an epic by Byron; people who weren’t afraid to live, even if they had to bend the rules a little. I feel like a leopard trying to change his spots, when the spots go down into the skin. The brainwashing I received from my church experience has washed out so now I’m free to choose my path. I think I’ve picked it already, and the rest is just seeing where it leads me to.
Quarter after six. It hasn’t been a good day for me. Just the same old stuff I do every day. But the truth is that I have control over this situation to some degree. How nice if we could all make our dreams come true, live the life we want to live; if the fabric of reality yielded to our dearest desires just by the use of language, like magic spells and love potions. This reminds me that I ought to finish the second part of Faust, a very profound and dreamlike drama. Sometimes beauty can win the day and abolish pain and care— especially when it is shared. The trick is to take two dimensions and blow them up to three in technicolor, like a lucid dream, and preserve them in some way…
All in all I didn’t do much today. While I was playing the bass, the UPS carrier brought my new book of Plato. The one before it was delivered to the wrong address, so Amazon replaced it for free. Then I opened it up and looked through it. There are two schematics in the book that I would have to figure out to know their purpose, and also there’s an illustration of the Spindle of Necessity. I love the way this book is organized and translated from the Greek. The Republic, to me, is a perfect handbook of self discipline, by teaching the primacy of reason in the soul, both individually and collectively, then going on to describe the character of the philosopher. A tyrant, according to Plato, is someone whose reason has been overthrown by his impulses. One might argue that alcoholism is this kind of situation, a sort of gluttony gone out of control by the rational component of the personality. And indeed, the reason becomes overturned by the irrational desire to drink alcohol, and therefore the person has become unjust and tyrannical.
At around two thirty I walked over to the store for a bucket of coffee ice cream, speaking of impulses. I was feeling pretty good today and wanted to celebrate a little. Caffeine is my way of splurging a bit without actually drinking alcohol. I also had a Coke this morning. I think I prefer the raspberry tea Snapple, but it’s all good. The drinks are cold, wet, sweet, and have caffeine in them. It’s easy to overdo it, so I have to employ my reason and be judicious. I wonder at what point the rational faculty gets overwhelmed by what’s below the neck, ie the subconscious and its lunacies? It’d make a great topic for a college paper in English or philosophy.
If you’ve never read Republic, then you might find it interesting, even helpful for everyday living. If nothing else, it’s a great classic of world literature that it benefits you to know. And it’s quite reader friendly, written in dialogue form that’s easy to follow.
Now I’m going to ponder what I just inquired about reason and the subconscious. Is it better to keep those things under rational lock and key, or maybe let them out a little to see the light of day? Plato and Goethe would argue over this point.
Suddenly I think again of Odysseus strapped to the mast of his ship, listening to the song of the Sirens out of sheer curiosity to know the lunatic fringe of human experience. I wonder if he gained anything by his rash behavior? But isn’t that a great image from The Odyssey?
The rain has stopped outside, but internally there’s often a desire to drown my sorrows, to escape the banality and get a foretaste of heaven. “Watch the monkey get hurt, monkey. Shock the monkey to life.” My age bothers me every day, and I can’t deny the fact of it. But would I exchange my current state of wisdom for youth? You can’t have it both ways. Band practice today. I might get some funny looks from people as I walk by with my instrument, but music is important to me. I imagine many people would call us foolish for playing in a pandemic. It’s okay for them, but they’re missing out on the fun. Later on, they may acknowledge that we had a good idea… Almost time to feed Aesop.
Nine thirty five. I got rained on a little, but I had my umbrella to shield me. I feel pretty good. The raspberry tea hit the spot. During the night I digested a few pages of Carnap, surprised to find how accessible it was. Basically he says that expressions are meaningless that refer to nothing tangible and concrete. His analyses reminded me of an observation by Emerson: words tend to grow more abstract with use over time. He uses the example of “spirit,” which originally referred to a literal wind or breath, and now points to something invisible. It’s an invisible that Carnap would say doesn’t exist. It is easy to detect a bias in his arguments, a preconception that drives him to deny metaphysics categorically… Before I read this, I scanned the beginning of Faust, Part Two: very strange stuff. A person can shut her eyes and accept the spooks at face value, but logically it doesn’t add up. If you look for consistent evidence of such things, you’ll be disappointed. Suddenly it’s grown very dark out and the rain is persistent. Just a matter of cause and effect. Now it’s a cloudburst, and nothing to do with my thoughts. The same Peter Gabriel song drones away in my head. Only another day in the life…